Riopelle’s excess in music

I admit I was privileged. In the comfort of the Piccolo studio, earlier this week I discovered the musical work that has been created over the last few months in honor of Jean Paul Riopelle.

Posted at 7:15am

The day before this hearing, which brought together the main designers and collaborators of this gigantic project, producer Nicolas Lemieux multiplied the superlatives on the phone. I’m starting to get to know the guy: when he gets involved in a project, he believes in it wholeheartedly and uses superhuman strength to convince others to believe in it too.

I’m waiting for the result, I thought to myself.

I arrived at the studio worried. And if ever this creation, which will be released on January 1st,ah next November on different media (digital version, vinyl disc, luxury box, etc.) and staged in February 2023 as part of Montréal en lumière, has it been missed? And if it was marshmallow or that it sounded incorrectly “symphonic”?

What did I want to say to the creators present? What words should I use? What was I getting myself into, I thought to myself as I settled into a large armchair facing two sophisticated loudspeakers.

The work, signed by Serge Fiori and Blair Thomson, consists of five movements. After the first one I was blown away by so much beauty, creativity and depth. After the third, my eyes watered. And when the last breath came out, I was literally on my ass.

Mission accomplished for designers!

The starting point for this creation are seven pieces by Serge Fiori, a great admirer of the painter and sculptor, that do not belong to the harmonium repertoire. Blair Thomson enjoyed “deconstructing” Fiori’s songs (you find certain themes here and there) to create a work of its own.

Because we are not faced with a stupid montage, a patchwork easy. Fiori and Thomson sign a true musical work in which references to Riopelle’s journey are guided by an attentive and intelligent understanding of the man and his work.

Each movement illustrates a defining moment in Riopelle’s life. We hear his passion, his exile, his ascension, his love of nature, his travels, his return to the Welcome Land, his descent into death. Nicolas Lemieux likes to remind us that the image of the wild goose, which is very present in the painter’s work, is the symbol that carries this musical creation. “Riopelle becomes the wild goose and the wild goose is that artist in a way. We have combined the movements of this animal with those of its run. »

Blair Thomson (luckily the director who gets his hands on this composer to ask him for score) has done a remarkable job. You had to let him explain how he came closer to the painter with a thousand subtleties.


Jean Paul Riopelle, photographed in 1985

So when Riopelle discovers the sculpture, we use more brass and metal sounds (we even hear an anvil). Or, to illustrate the painter’s journeys to the Far North, he asked the drummer to strike various stones.

The passages from mantras that Serge Fiori composed in the 1990s are particularly successful. “I told Blair he had to surpass himself,” said Nicolas Lemieux. He did. He transformed and expressed his creative genius. I still can’t believe the result. »

This introspection into the lives of Riopelle, Nicolas Lemieux and the two composers was possible thanks to important research supported by Yseult Riopelle, the artist’s daughter, and Manon Gauthier, General Director of the Fondation Jean Paul Riopelle. , and John Porter, former director of Quebec’s National Museum of Fine Arts and art historian, who signs the CD’s accompanying text.

The recording sessions for the work with the musicians of the Orchester symphonique took place at the Maison symphonique. The 100-part chorus of Les Petits Chanteurs de Laval was then recorded in the studio, combined with another chorus formed specifically for the work.

The world premiere of the stage event Symphonic Riopelle experience takes place on February 16, 17 and 18 at the Place des Arts with the Orchester symphonique de Montréal conducted by Adam Johnson. This project is then presented elsewhere in the country and around the world. At least that is the wish of its manufacturer.

Gabriel Poirier-Galarneau was in charge of signing the staging, the scenography and the video projections.

After listening to the work, I couldn’t help but tell this designer that he has a great responsibility. I think he has seen many paintings of Riopelle in his dreams over the past few months.

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